Deskford (1859)



The Lord has been pleased to pour out His Spirit upon this parish. The prayerful expectation of his people was met a fortnight ago by a very manifest work of grace. Very many have been brought under deep conviction of sin, and a con­siderable number have been enabled to find peace and joy in believing. The work is the Lord's own and is characterised by great depth and sincerity, and accompanied by many most pleasant fruits. Meetings are held daily and are well attended and peculiarly solemn. Even those opposed to such a work are much impressed by it, and a feeling of awe seems to prevail. Though this is the first beginning of Revival in this particular district, there are not wanting proofs in other parts of the county, and in various districts of Aberdeenshire, that the Lord has a purpose of mercy for this part of Scotland.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume i, p139

. The Free Church in Deskford has been wonderfully honoured and visited—the Rev. Mr Ker going heartily into the work, and the Lord daily adding to his church.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume ii, p102

"Deskford.—We have had a good time here. Many have been brought to feel their lost state by nature, and some have been saved. I addressed the scholars of the Free Church School, and I think our meeting was attended with good results. Oh for the Spirit of God to rest on the people, both old and young!

From 'James Turner,' by E McHardie. ,

BY THE REV. WILLIAM J. KER.

THE work of the Lord here may be said to have really be­gun in March 1858, when there occurred a remarkable case of conversion, which exercised considerable influence throughout the district, and undoubtedly prepared the way for the more extensive work which followed. A veterinary surgeon, very skilful in his profession, and much liked for his amiable, hearty disposition, but who had fallen a victim to habits of intemperance, had recently conic to reside in the parish. Three attacks of delirium tremens had weak­ened his constitution, and, at the same time, impelled him earnestly to desire deliverance from his bondage. He had often before sought this in the use of the best means in his power, by joining the Abstinence Society, and by forming the strongest resolutions of amendment. He was well ac­quainted intellectually with gospel truth, and able to argue with great acuteness in favour of sound doctrine. He had once been a liberal and active office-bearer in a neighbour­ing congregation, and there was nothing in his character in­consistent, save in his besetting sin. On hearing Mr Gough, the temperance lecturer, he had again renewed his broken pledge and was hopefully entering upon a course of reforma­tion. He also yielded himself up to the influence then brought to bear upon him with respect to the power of spiritual truth, and readily gave up his display of argumentative power, that he might seek to be himself made subject to the truth.

While in this hopeful course, he fell under temptation, and with a reawakened appetite, yielded for a time to the fatal snare. The fear of falling again into disease, which he had every reason to think would prove fatal, and the delu­sion that it was dangerous to give up drinking at once, only tended to increase his danger. When pressed to it, however, he consented to break off instantly and to make a solemn promise of abstinence. As a man of honour, he kept the promise, but he had a fearful struggle to undergo. Feeling his own weakness, he relied upon the prayers of Christian friends and believed they would be heard. In his distress he cried to the Lord in a wood near his house, but in weakness and fear. On his return to the house, while sitting at the fireside, with his body literally writhing in agony under the insatiable carving, it suddenly ceased, and he felt himself at once and completely set free. He " could have flown," he said, and his heart was filled with indescribable joy and thanksgiving to God, to whom alone he felt it was due. He was able to engage earnestly in the duties of his ordinary occupation, which had been neglected, and this proved most helpful to him, while also his new appetite for gospel truth enabled him eagerly to receive the nourishment supplied for his spiritual growth. He feared to make known the special circumstances of his case, but all with whom he came into contact were able to judge of the results in his growing consistency of conduct.

After four months' satisfactory progress, he again fell for a few days under his old enemy, owing to a snare artfully laid for him, of which he was unconscious. In answer to prayer, he was graciously raised again, humbled and sub­dued in spirit, and enabled, with self-distrust and earnest reliance upon God, to make new progress, and to adorn his Christian profession before all. His influence became felt throughout the widely-extended district in which he was known; and an impression was produced by the manifest effects of the change wrought upon him, which prepared many for understanding the special work of conversion when it pleased the Lord to carry it on more extensively. None was more earnest than he in pleading with the Lord for an outpouring of His Spirit upon the parish, and none was more full of holy joy when prayer was answered, and the blessing came. He was at once able to enter into the work with his whole heart, and rendered essential service, in many ways, in carrying it forward.

There was a gradual preparation in other respects, also, for the manifestation of the Lord's power in the congrega­tion at large. Accounts were read from time to time of the revival of religion in America and in Ireland. Arid while the subject was thus brought under the notice of all, the Spirit was silently working on the hearts of several, giving a deeper impression of prevailing coldness and death —and causing a desire for new life to be felt. On the seventh anniversary of the minister's ordination, he was led to urge upon the congregation to pray and to expect that the Lord might make the year then commencing a new period, to prove to be a year of Sabbath rest. Immedi­ately upon this, in September 1359, more evident tokens began to appear. A mothers' meeting was begun in the manse at the close of that month, and the weekly prayer-meetings became more largely attended, and with the appearance of a much deeper solemnity of feeling. The servants in the manse were the first brought under deep conviction of sin ; and they, along with a number of others, considerable enough to attract general notice from the evidences of deep emotion which they were forced to skew at a meeting in church, were enabled to rest upon Christ as their Saviour, and to have peace and joy in believing. More frequent meetings then began to be held, and at most of these, the Lord's power was displayed in one or more being brought to the knowledge of the truth. In most cases, this was done in a way which attracted little notice from others; the seed of the word being implanted in hearts prepared by God himself was made to take root, and the work of grace became manifest in the fruit brought forth. It was felt by all to be indeed a time of life and of light from Heaven itself. They who knew the Lord were quickened and refreshed in spirit and had a new insight into the Scriptures of truth, which were made the means of building them up and strengthening them in God's service. Some who thought themselves consistent Christians were convicted of self-righteousness and brought as sinners to Christ. A sense of awe seemed to rest upon those who could not understand the real nature of the work, as if they acknowledged its Divine mystery; but this soon gave place to .a bitter enmity and open opposition on the part of many.

In order to strengthen the young converts, and to fortify them against the snares, inward and outward, laid for them by the enemy of souls, frequent opportunities were taken for instructing them in the knowledge of the truth; and these were much blessed for their spiritual growth. At the outset, also, means were employed to spread the influence of the living truth to neighbouring districts, by holding meetings in localities where an earnest desire was expressed for it ; and these have been made largely instrumental for the advancement of the work, an evident blessing from the Lord resting upon every one of them, in many being added to the number of the saved.

The peculiar severity of the weather during the winter proved a trial of faith to the Lord's people and tended greatly to strengthen it, from the proofs continually given of the gracious presence of the Lord himself among them.

When the work had thus advanced for upwards of four months in this manner, fresh interest was excited by hear­ing of the remarkable revival in the fishing villages along the coast, so largely characterised by the same physical manifestations which had prevailed in Ireland. These unwonted accompaniments of the work of the Spirit were not at first understood by many, who feared lest they were the result of the excitement of protracted meetings, and an evidence of human imperfection, marring the- real work of God. This apprehension was removed by visiting the loca­lities most marked by these manifestations, where, to those best acquainted with the former state of things, the change apparent was most striking, and gave evidence of the effec­tual operation of the Spirit of God. In the conduct of the meetings, also, there was a deep earnestness and great sim­plicity f faith in waiting upon the Lord, and a sincere, ear­nest desire for instruction in Divine truth. These proofs of the working of God's mighty power filled the hearts of God's children with joy and strengthened their faith in the con­fident expectation of another and richer shower of blessing upon Deskford. In this they were not disappointed ; and in the outpouring of the Spirit which was granted to their prayer f faith, there was so much of the special peculiari­ties which characterised the work along the coast, as served to remove entirely any suspicion that might still remain in connexion with them, and to enable them to form a judg­ment respecting their real nature.

Among the many who were then brought under convic­tion of sin, by the application of truth to the conscience, and enabled to exercise saving faith in Christ, there were but two cases in which this was effected with such a direct application of the power of God, as made itself manifest in physical prostration. In one of these, this power of God preceded, and in the other it accompanied, mental emotion, which in neither case was of a marked character. In both, the working of this mysterious power was quite separable from the effect upon the mind of the saving truth of the Divine word, which, applied by the Spirit of God, is made the instrument in all cases of the soul's con­version. They both occurred in the course of the ordinary forenoon Sabbath service, on different days, when they could be viewed entirely apart from the various accompani­ments which have, in most cases, tended to give rise to misconception and vain conjectures. They seemed to give a vivid meaning to that word,—" Thy people shall be wilting in the day of Thy power," and to reproduce, in this display of the Divine glory, somewhat of the proofs of power, which, in the case of the prophet of old, were but the preparation for his hearing the " still small voice," in which the Lord himself was recognised. The effect upon the congregation proved one most important end which such manifestations seem designed to serve—to impress more powerfully with the conviction, that it is not the presentation of the truth by man which has power to affect the heart, apart from the direct work of the Spirit—that it is " not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." The necessity of the most entire dependence upon God was strongly felt, and faith was quickened to more earnest prayer for the fulfilment of the promises in the Word. The personality of the Holy Ghost seemed to be realised more simply, while His presence and aid were sought in the use of the ordinary means of grace.

This effect appeared most strikingly throughout the series of meetings on eight successive nights in the church, while the special shower of spiritual blessing lasted. Those who had been before brought to the knowledge of the truth forever along were wonderfully quickened, their spiritual life receiving a greater fulness and freedom, and their mouths being opened in prayer to pour forth their desires out of the abundance of the heart. It was truly the pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplication upon Christians of both sexes and of all ages, and was felt to be so even by such as were least disposed to admit the possibility of a Divine influence showing itself in such a form. It was, indeed, striking to observe how some who had hitherto, been slow to admit the special work of the Spirit in the less demonstrative form which it had previously assumed, had now no diffi­culty in acknowledging it to be His. The prayers thus offered were in many cases blessed as the means of bringing conviction to those who had hitherto hardened themselves against the truth, from the reality of the Christian life exemplified in the agonising earnestness, and the childlike simplicity with which the supplications were offered. The Lord graciously answered the prayers which He thus enabled His people to offer to Him, and His power was made to appear in turning the hearts of many to Himself.

The meetings were lengthened according as it seemed to be absolutely necessary for the requirements of the work. No importance was attached to protracted meetings as the means of securing a blessing, and they were not used as such. In two instances, they were prolonged to an ad­vanced hour on the following morning, but it was felt by all to be a most blessed necessity, arising from the number of cases of anxious inquiry, and of deep, agonising struggle in seeking salvation in Christ. The peculiar manifestation of the Spirit which then occurred were of a totally different character from those formerly described. The effects upon the body were wholly the result of deep mental motion, in which the Spirit applied Scripture truth to the heart, leading the burdened soul to cast itself upon the Saviour. Indeed, the only peculiarity consisted in the repenting sinner's being forced to lay bare the workings f the mind before others, who were thus enabled to under­stand how the Spirit applies the work f Christ in all the various particulars of the " effectual calling." There were but few eases of this description in these, with a greater or less degree of personal unconsciousness, a striking testi­mony was borne to the reality of the Spirit s work in the heart, in leading the sinner unto Christ. These served to cast a vivid light upon the more silent work in all the others who were brought under conviction and led to the Saviour, and were also, in many instances, made instrumental in awakening the careless.

The only other illustration of the more peculiar pheno­mena accompanying the work, which may be stated as - casting light upon this subject, occurred in the first com­mencement of it, several months before the physical manifestations on the coast. A stranger, coming into the parish, was suddenly overcome on the road by a feeling like bodily illness, instantly followed by great spiritual anxiety. He had before led a careless life and had not attended any meetings connected with the revival. A few hours after, he met the minister on the road, who found him exactly in the position of Lydia, "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things spoken of Paul." He was directed to the Saviour, and eagerly lis­tened to the truth set before him. Soon after, he was visited with affliction in the death of a child, during which the reality of a blessed change in him was apparent to all who came into contact with him. Such a case as this, and others somewhat similar, in which, without any physi­cal accompaniment, a passage of Scripture was suddenly brought with convincing power to the heart, while persons were engaged at their ordinary employments, helped to keep alive the impression that it was wholly the work of the Lord, and to check the tendency to place undue reli­ance upon any special instrumentalities. This proved most beneficial ., and, at the same time, the snare was avoided of attaching any special importance to the peculiar mode of the application of truth, apart from the truth itself as the instrument used by the Spirit of God.

One special design connected with the peculiar manifes­tations at this second remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, was made to appear in the extension of the work to other places. While they had the effect of keeping away from the meetings many in the parish who still resisted the truth, they attracted to them a large number from neigh­bouring parishes, who came to seek the Lord, and most of whom were enabled to return with joy, carrying with them the blessing which they had received, and thus extending its benefits throughout a wide range. It was thus shown, that this great work of the Lord is not to be considered as belonging to any specially-favoured localities, any more than as being carried on by any specially-favoured individuals; but that all must merge in the glorious truth, that the Lord has visited our land, and is carrying forward His gracious purpose of mercy.

The Lord Jesus, as "the way, the truth, and the life," is now being glorified in men being drawn unto Him everywhere. In view f the spiritual darkness and death, out of which the Church of Christ begins to emerge, we may well look hopefully to the -continued spread of another reformation as glorious and enduring in its results as that with which our land vas blessed three hundred years ago. The same manly courage is needed now as then, to maintain the living truth, to expose error, to overthrow idols, to exalt the Lord alone as the living Head of His Church. And to the Church is given the blessed function of providing the "sincere milk of the word" for the growth and nourish­ment of the "babes in Christ," now committed to her care.

From ‘Authentic Records of Revival, now in progress in the United Kingdom, published in 1860, re-printed and edited in 1980 by Richard Owen Roberts.


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